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The Land of Deepening Shadow Germany-at-War online

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remark about creating public opinion. I realised that the road is
long which winds from it to the little wayside inn near Hildesheim,
but that it is a road on which live both the diplomat and the
lonely, war-weary woman. They live on different ends, that is all.




CHAPTER VIII

CORRESPONDENTS IN SHACKLES

Towards the end of 1915 the neutral newspaper correspondents in
Berlin were summoned to the _Kriegs-Presse-Bureau_ (War Press
Bureau) of the Great General Staff. The official in charge, Major
Nicolai, notified them that the German Government desired their
signature to an agreement respecting their future activities in the
war. It had been decided, Major Nicolai stated, to allow the
American journalists to visit the German fronts at more or less
regular intervals, but before this was done it would be necessary
for them to enter into certain pledges. These were, mainly: -

1. To remain in Germany for the duration of the war, unless given
special permission to leave by the German authorities.

2. To guarantee that dispatches would be published in the United
States precisely as sent from Germany, that is to say, as edited
and passed by the military censorship.

3. To supply their own headlines for their dispatches, and to
guarantee that these, and none others, would be printed.

After labouring in vain to instruct Major Nicolai that with the
best of intentions on the part of the correspondents it was beyond
their power to say in exactly what form the _Omaha Bee_ or the _New
Orleans Picayune_ would publish their "copy," they affixed their
signatures to the weird document laid before them. It was signed,
without exception, by all the important correspondents permanently
stationed in Berlin. Two or three who did not desire to hand over
the control of their personal movements to the German Government
for an unlimited number of years did not "take the pledge," with
the result that they were not invited to join the personally
conducted junkets to the fronts which were subsequently organised.

Nothing that has happened in Germany during the war illustrates so
well the vassalage to which neutral correspondents have been
reduced as the humiliating pledges extorted from them by the German
Government as the price of their remaining in Berlin for the
practice of their profession.

It was undoubtedly this episode which inspired the American
Ambassador, Mr. Gerard, to tell the American correspondents last
summer that they would do well to obtain their freedom from the
German censorship before invoking the Embassy's good offices to
break down the alleged interference with their dispatches by the
British censorship. When the Germans learned of the rebuff which
Mr. Gerard had administered to his journalistic compatriots, the
Berlin Press launched one of those violent attacks against the
Ambassador to which he has constantly been subject in Germany
during the war.

As I have shown in a previous chapter the German Government
attaches so much importance to the control and manufacture of
public opinion through the Press that it is drastic in the
regulation of German newspapers. It is therefore comprehensible
that it should strive to enlist to the fullest possible extent the
Press of other countries. At least one paper in practically every
neutral country is directly subsidised by the German Foreign
Office, which does not, however, stop at this. The attempt to
seduce the newspapers of other nations into interpreting the
Fatherland as the Wilhelmstrasse wishes it to be interpreted leads
the investigators to a subterranean labyrinth of schemes which
would fill a volume.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28, 1914. Long
before that Dr. Hammann, head of the _Nachrichtendienst_ of the
German Foreign Office, had organised a plan for the successful
influencing of the Press of the world. In May, 1914, the work of a
special bureau under his direction and presided over by a woman of
international reputation was in full operation.

The following incident, which is one of the many I might cite,
throws interesting light on one method of procedure. The head of
the special bureau asked one of the best known woman newspaper
reporters of Norway if she would like to do some easy work which
would take up very little of her time and for which she would be
well paid.

The Norwegian reporter was interested and asked for particulars.

"Germany wishes to educate other countries to a true appreciation
of things German. Within a year, or at most within two years, we
shall be doing this by sending to foreign newspapers articles which
will instruct the world about Germany. Of course, it is not
advisable to send them directly from our own bureau; it is much
better to have them appear to come from the correspondents of the
various foreign newspapers. Thus, we shall send you articles which
you need only copy or translate and sign."

This has been the practice in German journalism for years, and its
extension to other countries was merely a chain in the link of
Germany's deliberate and thorough preparations for the war.

With a few exceptions, German reporters and correspondents are
underpaid sycophants, mere putty in the hands of the Government.
Therefore, the chagrin of the officials over the independence and
ability of the majority of the American correspondents is easy to
understand. The Wilhelmstrasse determined to control them, and
through them to influence the American Press. Hence the rules
given above.

When a man signs an agreement that he will not leave Germany until
the end of the war, without special dispensation, he has bound
himself to earn his livelihood in that country. He cannot do this
without the consent of the Government, for if he does not write in
a manner to please them they can slash his copy, delay it, and
prevent him from going on trips to such an extent that he will be a
failure with his newspaper at home. His whole success depends
therefore upon his being "good" much after the manner in which a
German editor must be "good." If he expresses a wish to leave
Germany before the end of the war and the wish is granted, he feels
that a great favour has been conferred upon him and he is supposed
to feel himself morally bound to be "good" to Germany in the future.

The American journalistic colony in Germany is an entirely
different thing from what it used to be in pre-war days. Before
1914 it consisted, merely of the representatives of the Associated
Press and United Press, half a dozen New York papers (including the
notorious _New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung_), and the well-known and
important Western journal, the _Chicago Daily News_. To-day many
papers published in the United States are represented in Berlin by
special correspondents. The influx of newcomers has been mostly
from German-language papers, printed in such Teutonic centres as
Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Milwaukee, etc. Journals like the
_Illinoiser Staats-zeitung_, of Chicago, which for years past has
barely been able to keep its head above water, have suddenly found
themselves affluent enough to maintain correspondents in Europe
who, for their part, scorn lodgings less pretentious than those of
the _de luxe_ Hotel Adlon in Unter den Linden.

The bright star in the American journalistic firmament in Berlin is
Karl Heinrich von Wiegand, the special representative of the _New
York World_. The _New York World_ is not pro-German, but von
Wiegand is of direct and noble German origin. Apart from his
admitted talents as a newspaper man, his Prussian "von" is of no
inconsiderable value to any newspaper which employs him. Von
Wiegand, I believe, is a native of California. Persons unfriendly
to him assert that he is really a native of Prussia, who went to
the United States when a child. Wherever he was born, he is now
typically American, and speaks German with an unmistakable
Transatlantic accent. He is a bookseller by origin, and his little
shop in San Francisco was wiped out by the earthquake. About
forty-five years of age, he is a man of medium build, conspicuously
near-sighted, wears inordinately thick "Teddy Roosevelt
eye-glasses," and is in his whole bearing a "real" Westerner of
unusually affable personality. Von Wiegand claims, when taunted
with being a Press agent of the German Government, that he is
nothing but an enterprising correspondent of the _New York World_.
I did not find this opinion of himself fully shared in Germany.
There are many people who will tell you that if von Wiegand is not
an actual attache of the German Press Bureau, his "enterprise"
almost always takes the form of very effective Press agent work for
the Kaiser's cause. He certainly comes and goes at all official
headquarters in Germany on terms of welcome and intimacy, and is a
close friend of the notorious Count Reventlow.

My personal opinion, however, is that he is above all a journalist,
and an exceedingly able one.

Von Wiegand's liaison with the powers that be in Berlin has long
been a standing joke among his American colleagues. Shortly after
the fall of Warsaw in August, 1915, when the stage in Poland was
set for exhibition to the neutral world, he was roused from his
slumbers in his suite at the Adlon by a midnight telephone message,
apprising him that if he would be at Friedrichstrasse Station at
4.30 the next morning, with packed bags, he would be the only
correspondent to be taken on a staff trip to Warsaw. Wiegand was
there at the appointed hour, but was astonished to discover that he
had been hoaxed. The perpetrators of the "rag" were some of his U.
S. _confreres_.

Von Wiegand for nearly two years has been the recipient of such
marked and exclusive favours in Berlin that Mr. Hearst's _New York
American_ (the chief rival of the _New York World_, and the head of
the "International News Service" which has been suppressed in Great
Britain, where it has been proved to have maliciously lied on
divers occasions) decided to send to Germany a special
correspondent who would also have a place in the sun. The
gentleman appointed to crowd Mr. von Wiegand out of the limelight
was a former clergyman named Dr. William Bayard Hale, a gifted
writer and speaker, who obtained some international notoriety eight
years ago by interviewing the Kaiser. That interview was so full
of blazing political indiscretions that the German Government
suppressed it at great cost by buying up the entire issue of the
New York magazine in which the explosion was about to take place.
Enough of the contents of the interview subsequently leaked out to
indicate that its main feature was the German Emperor's insane
animosity to Great Britain and Japan and his determination to go to
war with them.

Dr. Hale also enjoyed the prestige of having once been an intimate
of President Wilson. He had written the latter's biography, and
later represented him in Mexico as a special emissary. Shortly
before the war he married a New York German woman, who is, I
believe, a sister or near relative of Herr Muschenheim, the owner
of the Hotel Astor, which in 1914 and 1915 was inhabited by the
German propaganda bureau, or one of the many bureaus maintained in
New York City. From the date of his German matrimonial alliance
Dr. Hale became an ardent protagonist of _Kultur_. One of his last
activities before going to Germany was to edit a huge "yellow book"
which summarised "Great Britain's violations of international law"
and the acrimonious correspondence on contraband and shipping
controversies between the British and American Governments. This
publication was financed by the German publicity organisation and
widely circulated in the United States and all neutral countries.

Dr. Hale, a tall, dark, keen-looking, smooth-shaven, and
smooth-spoken American, received in Berlin on his arrival a welcome
customarily extended only to a new-coming foreign Ambassador. He
came, of course, provided with the warmest credentials Count
Bernstorff could supply. Long before Hale had a chance to present
himself at the Foreign Office, the Foreign Office presented itself
to him, an emissary from the Imperial Chancellor having, according
to the story current in Berlin, left his compliments at Dr. Hale's
hotel. He had not been in Berlin many days before an interview
with Bethmann-Hollweg was handed to him on a silver plate.
Forthwith the _New York American_ began to be deluged with the
journalistic sweetmeats - Ministerial interviews, Departmental
statements, and exclusive news tit-bits - with which Karl Heinrich
von Wiegand had so long and alone been distinguishing himself.

I have told in detail these facts about von Wiegand and Hale
because between them the two men are able to flood the American
public with a torrent of German-made news and views, whose volume
and influence are tremendous. The _New York World's_ European news
is "syndicated" to scores of newspapers throughout the American,
continent, and the service has "featured" von Wiegand's Berlin
dispatches to the exclusion, or at least almost to the eclipse, of
the _World's_ other war news. Hale's dispatches to the Hearst
Press have been published all the way across the Republic, not only
in the dailies of vast circulation owned by Mr. Hearst in New York,
Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, but
also in a great many other papers like the prominent _Philadelphia
North American_, which subscribed to the "International News
Service."

The German authorities understand all this perfectly well. That
explains their unceasing attentions to von Wiegand and Hale, and to
other valuable correspondents. One of these recently undertook to
compile a book on Belgium in war-time for the purpose of
white-washing Germans in American estimation. Accompanied by his
wife, he was motored and wined and dined through the conquered
country under the watchful chaperonage of German officers. He has
returned to Berlin to write his book, although it is common
knowledge there that during his entire stay in Belgium he was not
permitted to talk to a single Belgian.

Although nominally catered to and fawned upon by the German
authorities, the American correspondents cut on the whole a
humiliating figure, although not all of them realise it. It is
notorious they are spied upon day and night. They are even at
times ruthlessly scorned by their benefactors in the
Wilhelmstrasse. One of the Americans who essays to be independent,
was some time ago a member of a journalistic party conducted to
Lille. He left the party long enough to stroll into a jeweller's
shop to purchase a new glass for his watch. While making the
purchase he asked the Frenchman who waited on him how he liked the
Germans. "They are very harsh, but just," was the reply. A couple
of weeks later, when the correspondents were back in Berlin, Major
Nicolai, of the War Press Bureau, sent for the correspondent, said
to him that he knew of the occasion on which the American
journalist had "left the party" in Lille, and demanded to know what
had occurred in the watchmaker's shop. The correspondent repeated
precisely what the Frenchman had said. "Well," snarled Major
Nicolai, "why didn't you send that to your papers?" I may mention
here that these parties of neutral correspondents are herded rather
than conducted when on tour.

The American correspondents had a sample of the actual contempt in
which the German authorities hold them on the day when the
commercial submarine _Deutschland_ returned to Bremen, August 23.
For purposes of glorifying the _Deutschland's_ achievement in the
United States, the American correspondents in Berlin were
dispatched to Bremen, where they were told that elaborate special
arrangements for their reception and entertainment had been
completed. Count Zeppelin, two airship commanders, who had just
raided England, and a number of other national heroes would be
present, together with the Grand Duke of Oldenburg at the head of a
galaxy of civil, military, and naval dignitaries. The grand climax
of the _Deutschland_ joy carnival was to be a magnificent banquet
with plenty of that rare luxury, bread and butter, at the famous
Bremen _Rathaus_ accompanied by both oratorical and pyrotechnical
fireworks. The correspondents were given an opportunity to watch
the triumphal progess of the _Deutschland_ through the Weser into
Bremen harbour, but at night, when they looked for their places at
the _Rathaus_ feast, they were informed that there was no room for
them. An overflow banquet had been arranged in their special
honour in a neighbouring tavern. This was too much even for some
of the War Press Bureau's best American friends, and the overflow
dinner party was served at a table which contained many vacant
chairs. Their intended occupiers had taken the first train back to
Berlin, thoroughly disgusted.

It is fair to say that several of the principal American
correspondents in Berlin are making a serious effort to practise
independent journalism, _but it is a difficult and hopeless
struggle_. They are shackled and controlled from one end of the
week to the other. They could not if they wished send the
unadorned truth to the United States. _All they are permitted to
report is that portion of the truth which reflects Germany in the
light in which it is useful for Germany to appear from time to
time_.

Germany has organised news for neutrals in the most intricate
fashion. A certain kind of news is doled out for the United
States, a totally different kind for Spain, and still a different
brand, when emergency demands, for Switzerland, Brazil, or China.
There is a Chinese correspondent among the other "neutrals" in
Germany. The "news" prepared for him by Major Nicolai's department
would be very amusing reading in the columns of Mr. von Wiegand's
or Dr. Hale's papers.

There is a celebrated and pro-Ally newspaper in New York whose
motto is "All the news that's fit to print." The motto of the
German War Press Bureau is "All the news that's safe to print."




CHAPTER IX

ANTON LANG OF OBERAMMERGAU

While I was at home on a few weeks' visit in October, 1915, I read
in the newspapers a simple announcement cabled from Europe that
Anton Lang of Oberammergau had been killed in the great French
offensive in Champagne. This came as a shock to many Americans,
for the name of this wonderful character who had inspired people of
all shades of opinion and religious belief in his masterful
impersonation of Christ in the decennial Passion Play was almost as
well known in the United States and in England as in his native
Bavaria, and better, I found than in Prussia.

British and American tourist agencies had put Oberammergau on the
map of the world. The interest in America after the Passion Play
of 1910 was so great, in fact, that some newspapers ran extensive
series of illustrated articles describing it. The man who played
the part of Christ was idealised, everybody who had seen him liked
him, respected him and admired him. Thousands had said that
somehow a person felt better after he had seen Anton Lang. As a
supreme test of his popularity, American vaudeville managers asked
him to name his own terms for a theatrical tour.

And now the man who had imbued his life with that of the Prince of
Peace had thrown the past aside, and with the spiked helmet in
place of the Crown of Thorns had gone to his death trying not to
save but to slaughter his fellow-men.

Truly, the changes wrought by war are great!

* * * * *

In Berlin I inquired into the circumstances of Anton Lang's death.
Nobody knew anything definite. Berlin knew little of him in life,
much less than London, New York or Montreal.

Munich is different. There his name is a household word. Herr von
Meinl, then Director of the Bavarian Ministry, now member of the
Bundesrat, told me that he believed that there was a mistake in the
report that Anton had been killed.

Later, when tramping through the Bavarian Highlands, I walked one
winter day from Partenkirchen to Oberammergau, for I had a whim to
know the truth of the matter.

On the lonely mountain road that winds sharply up from Oberau I
overtook a Benedictine monk who was walking to the monastery at
Ettal. We talked of the war in general and of the Russian
prisoners we had seen in the saw-mills at Untermberg. I was
curious to hear his views upon the war, and I soon saw that not
even the thick walls of a monastery are proof against the
idea-machine in the Wilhelmstrasse. Despite Cardinal Mercier's
denunciation of German methods in Belgium, this monk's views were
the same as the rest of the Kaiser's subjects. He did, however,
admit that he was sorry for the Belgians, although, in true German
fashion, he did not consider Germany to blame. He sighed to think
that "the Belgian King had so treacherously betrayed his people by
abandoning his neutrality and entering into a secret agreement with
France and Great Britain." He recited the regular story of the
secret military letters found by the Germans after they had invaded
Belgium, the all-important marginal notes of which were maliciously
left untranslated in the German Press.

We parted at Ettal, and I pushed on down the narrow valley to
Oberammergau. The road ahead was now in shadow, but behind me the
mountain mass was dazzling white in the rays of the setting sun.
"What a pity," I thought, "that the peasant must depart from these
beautiful mountains and valleys to die in the slime of the
trenches."

The day was closing in quiet and grandeur, yet all the time the
shadow of death was darkening the peaceful valley of the Ammer. I
became aware of it first as I passed the silent churchyard with its
grey stones rising from the snow. For there, on the other side of
the old stone wall that marks the road, was a monument on which the
Reaper hacks the toll of death. The list for 1870 was small,
indeed, compared with that of _die grosse Zeit_. I looked for Lang
and found it, for Hans had died, as had also Richard.

I passed groups of men cutting wood and hauling ice and grading
roads, men with rounder faces and flatter noses than the Bavarians,
still wearing the yellowish-brown uniform of Russia. That is, most
of them wore it. Some, whose uniforms had long since gone to
tatters, were dressed in ordinary clothing, with flaming red R's
painted on trousers and jackets.

An old woman with a heavy basket on her back was trudging past a
group of these. "How do you like them?" I asked. "We shall really
miss them when they go," she said. "They seem part of the village
now. The poor fellows, it must be sad for them so far from home."

Evidently the spirit of new Germany had not saturated her.

I went through crooked streets, bordered with houses brightly
frescoed with biblical scenes, to the _Pension Dahein_, the home of
the man I wished to see. As he rose from his pottery bench to
welcome me, I felt that beneath his great blue apron and rough garb
of the working man was true nobility. I did not need to ask if he
was Anton Lang. I had seen his picture and had often been told
that his face was the image of His Who died on the Cross. I
expected much, but found infinitely more. I felt that life had
been breathed into a Rubens masterpiece. No photograph can do him
justice, for no lens can catch the wondrous light in his clear blue
eyes.

I was the only guest at the _Pension Daheim_; indeed, I was the
only stranger in Oberammergau. I sat beside Anton Lang in his work
room as his steady hands fashioned things of clay, I ate at table
with him, and in the evening we pulled up our chairs to the
comfortable fireside, where we talked of his country and of my
country, of the Passion Play and of the war.

I had been sceptical about him until I met him. I wondered if he
was self-conscious about his goodness, or if he was a dreamer who
could not get down to the realities of this world, or if he had
been spoiled by flattery, or if piety was part of his profession.

When I finally went from there I felt that I really understood him.
His life has been without an atom of reproach, yet he never poses
as pious. He does not preach, or stand aloof, or try to make you
feel that he is better than you, but down in your heart you know
that he is. He has been honoured by royalty and men of state, yet
he remains simple and unaffected, though quietly dignified in
manner. He is truly Nature's Nobleman, with a mind that is pure
and a face the mirror of his mind.

To play well his role of _Christus_ is the dominating passion of


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Online LibraryD. Thomas CurtinThe Land of Deepening Shadow Germany-at-War → online text (page 6 of 21)